| Between the pipes | Part one: The Journey

A special feature series by Riley Fonger, Fernie Ghostriders starting goaltender

Part one: The Journey

The transition from midget to Junior hockey is never an easy one. It’s a huge step in the lives of young ambitious hockey players looking to fulfill their childhood dreams, play in front of a roaring crowd, and feel the excitement that is junior hockey.

There’s tremendous amounts of pressure in the process of making a team, it’s a road of ups and downs and requires one to give their very best effort every time they step on the ice.

For me and many other players starting junior this year, the first and biggest step is moving away from your home and your family. You have to say goodbye to your long time mentors that stuck by your side at every game, every early morning practice, and the ones who were with you every step of the way. However one of the best parts of the game is that you’re not alone on your journey, wherever it may lead you have your team.

A team is a family and it is one of the strongest reasons I still play hockey. They become your closest friends through the ups and downs of a season, through blood, sweat, and tears you share on the ice, and the smile and laughter that binds us together. My team is my home away from home, my second family.We are all bound together by the love of the game and everyone of us has a story; mine began up in Fort McMurray Alberta, trying out for the Oil Barons.

It was my dream since starting midget hockey to play at the junior A level. I went to Fort McMurray with a clear mind and full heart set on aspiring to fulfill the promise I made to myself all that time ago. When I arrived I learned I was one goalie of three, battling for one goaltending position on the Oil Barons roster. I poured my heart out in the main camp battling for every shot that I faced, however I came just short of my goal at the camp and was sent home before preseason cuts.

I was still young and eager to pursue my dream and knew this wasn’t the final step, I carried my pride and determination to Melville Saskatchewan, trying out for the Melville Millionaires Junior A ice hockey club. I felt a colossal amount of pressure from myself to crack the roster in Melville, knowing this could be my last shot at the Junior A level. This time I was able to crack the preseason roster, battling with one other goalie for the backup position.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in the upcoming weeks; it was my first time getting put into a billet, and getting to know my new teammates and live the glamorous life of a junior hockey player. Slowly but surely I adjusted and transitioned into my new life.

The three weeks I was present at preseason kept me battling head to head in practice and multiple pre season games with the other goalie, knowing any day we could get word the one of us was cut. The coach had called me into his office to let me know that just before the start of the regular season I was the one that was being released.

Shortly after the long and thoughtful drive home I knew it was time for me to go join my band of brothers, and create a new family with my teammates in Fernie on the Ghostriders.

This is part one of a multi-part series by Riley Fonger, which will run every second week. Pick up a copy of the November 29 edition of The Free Press to read part two.

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